Meet the Members: Su Bristow

Hello from Su Bristow, currently Chair of Exeter Writers.  Next year, world domination…

What do you write?

I write stories with an element of fantasy.  My first novel, Sealskin, is a retelling of the Scottish legend of the Selkies, or seals who can turn into people.  It won the Exeter Novel Prize 2013, and as a direct result of that, I now have an agent and a publisher.  It will be published as an ebook in the second half of this year, and in paperback early in 2017.  The next step is the cover design, which should be ready in the new year.  Watch this space…

In the meantime, I’m working on a second novel, about a lonely little girl who makes friends with fairies.  As she grows up, she throws in her lot with the ‘real’ world, but she is left with a special gift.  Is it a blessing or a curse?  Time will tell.

Writing novels seems to squeeze out the space for short stories and flash fiction, but I like those too.  The stimulus for a short story often comes from doing a workshop or an exercise; I love the rich mix of inspiration and new meetings you get from a group of writers, and there’s always something new to learn.

Lastly, I write a weekly blog on herbal matters in my capacity as a medical herbalist.  My publisher, Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books, has around twelve authors signed up, and I’m relieved to see that nearly all of them have jobs of one sort or another, so I’m not alone in wearing two hats.  ‘Don’t give up the day job’ is more relevant than ever these days, for the sake of sanity as well as financial health.  We’ll have to see how that works out when the book is published!

When and where do you write?

Anywhere, anywhen.  Recently, for example, on a train, at the Devon and Exeter Institution, at the garage waiting for my car to be serviced…right now I’m in the study at the top of the house.  It was a tiny attic room with no window where the maid-of-all-work slept, but we put in huge windows and now it has a view across the Hoopern Valley to the trees beyond Exwick, and the Horseguards development where the cavalry were stationed to repel Napoleon.  There’s a clock tower on top of what was the officers’ quarters, so I can see that it’s ten to four, and the wind is in the west.

Best writerly moment?

That would have to be winning the Exeter Novel Prize! I entered when the novel was still unfinished – you submit the first 10,000 words and a synopsis –My whole family and lots of friends were there at the ceremony, and because I was the only local contender on the short list, there was a huge cheer when the result was announced.  I got a hug from our Exeter MP – Ben Bradshaw – as well.

It made a huge difference to my sense of myself as a writer with something to say that other people might want to hear.  We all need affirmation sometimes, and it doesn’t come much better than that!